An earthquake is slowly rumbling across the international scientific publishing landscape. Depending on the size of the quake, it could have a major impact on the scientific community.

On September 4, 2018, 11 national science funding agencies in Europe released a plan, referred to as Plan S, stating that beginning in 2020, scientists funded by the group of 11 must publish the results of their research in open access journals, those that make articles freely available immediately upon publication. The 11 funders are from Austria, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. It is expected that other funders in Europe will join the original 11. Since the release of the original plan, China has also expressed support for Plan S.

Support for Plan S is not universal, however. Research funding organizations in Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Germany have not joined the plan. Despite rumors, most major biomedical research funders in the United States have yet to take a position on Plan S. It is also uncertain if the U.S. National Institutes of Health and other federal science funding agencies will adopt the plan.

Plan S could have a significant impact on professional scientific societies with peer-reviewed scientific journals and on researchers themselves. There is much confusion about the details of the plan, but it may require compliant journals to be completely open access, i.e., not derive any income from subscriptions. Without subscription income, society revenues may be greatly reduced and the complete publishing cost may be shifted to authors. Revenue from professional society journals funds not only peer review and journal production, but other important programs for society members.

To learn more about Plan S, visit the Plan S website.

Kevin M. Wilson

Kevin M. Wilson serves as Director of Public Policy and Media Relations for The American Society for Cell Biology. He's worked as the Legislative Director for U.S. Congressman Robert Weygand (D-RI) and as a Legislative Assistant for U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI). He has a BA in Politics and American Government from the Catholic University of America. Email: kwilson@ascb.org